Tag Archives: preserving

Green tomato and marrow chutney

Green Tomato and Marrow Chutney

I am sure that I normally make my chutney earlier than this, but this autumn has been so unseasonably mild that my tomatoes have just continued to give. A week or so ago I knew that it was finally time to pick the last of the tomatoes.

Last of the season's tomatoes

The tomatoes have done well this year, we have had a good harvest. I couldn’t say the same for our sweetcorn or our cabbage or our borlotti beans. But every year is different and that is part of the joy of vegetable growing. These beauties were destined for chutney, along with a marrow and some bramleys.

I made a very similar chutney last year and was very pleased with the result. This year’s seems promising. Of course, it is too early to tell what its real flavour might be once it has sat in the cupboard for a month or two and matured. At the moment it has too much vinegary  astringency to be sure. But underneath its immaturity I can sense its sweetness and the potential for a lovely chutney.

Chutney takes much longer to cook than you first imagine it might. Patience and a gentle simmer is needed and it is only ready when the vinegar has all but disappeared and in its place a thick sludge remains. It will take about three or four hours and your house will smell vinegary, spicy and fruity. I like it, the girls don’t. The Aga makes life easy because you just bring the pan to a simmer and then place it in the simmering oven for a few hours. A slow cooker might work, but I have never tried it so can’t say for sure.

Chutney cooking

The chutney nearly there and ready for potting

You can add whatever fruit and veg you have to this chutney as long as you remember that you need 1 part vinegar to three part fruit/veg. Then sugar in a similar amount, perhaps slightly less. You can use whichever spices are your favourite or you have in the cupboard, just make sure you tie them in a cloth that has been scalded in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes. That way you don’t experience an unpleasant bite into a whole spice when enjoying your chutney. I add walnuts to my chutney because I love the slight bite they retain, but feel free to not include them.

Here is what I have in mine this year.

1kg marrow
1.5kg tomatoes
400g bramley apple
350g onion
3 cloves garlic
150g sultanas
100g walnuts
15g salt
600ml vinegar (I used a mix of distilled and cider as that is what I had in the cupboard)
500g soft brown sugar
Spices to tie in a cloth bag:
1 chilli, left whole or cut in half depending how hot you want your chutney
1tsp mustard seed
4 cloves
5 cardamom seeds
1 tsp coriander seed
5 allspice berries
1 bayleaf
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp fresh ginger, sliced

Method

Chop all the fruit and vegetables to an even size. Slice the garlic. Place all of this in a large preserving pan. Add the sultanas and the walnuts. Tie the spices into a bag and place in the pan. Sprinkle the salt over. Add the sugar and pour the vinegar over everything. Place the pan on a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer until the fruit and vegetables are tender and the vinegar has become a thick sauce.

Pour into warm sterilised jars. Seal and store for a few months before enjoying and bringing back memories of your summer.

Crabapple and sloe jelly

Whilst I was picking my rosehips for the syrup I found a couple of heavily loaded sloe trees. I made my way back there a few days later and picked a kilo or two and popped them in the freezer. We are lucky enough to have a crabapple tree nearby too so I picked a couple of kilo of those too. The crabapples have sat in my kitchen looking at me accusingly for a couple of weeks, so yesterday I made myself get round to giving them a good swill and popped them in the preserving pan with some of the sloes. I cooked them slowly in just enough water to cover them until the apples were pulpy. I gave them a good mash and strained it overnight through a jelly bag. Today, I boiled them with sugar until the jelly wrinkled on a cold saucer. The finished jelly will be great with roast dinners and cold meats and stirred into gravies. I might even have it on toast like I do with my damson and rosehip jelly. This one though is a little sharper and has that sherbetty finish to it that you would expect from a jelly made with fruits that are sour before cooking.

Crabapples and sloes

The colours at the different stages are stunning. Starting with a rose pink and turning to a deep purple. It is worth making this jelly just for these colours.

Crabapple and sloe juice

The strained juice

Crabapple and sloe jelly boiling

The boiling stage

You can put in as many crabapples and sloes that you have, cover them with just enough water to almost cover and then strain the juice through a fine sieve of jelly bag. Measure out the juice and to every 600ml add 450g of granulated sugar. Here is what I did:

2kg crabapples
1kg sloes
water
1 kg granulated sugar

Method
Rinse the crabapples and the sloes well. Place in a large pan and cover with just enough water to almost cover. Cook over a gentle heat until the apples are pulpy. Mash with a potato masher and pour the purée into a jelly bag, a clean tea cloth (boil in a pan of water before use) or through a very fine sieve. Leave to strain overnight.

Measure the juice and for every 600ml add 450g of granulated sugar. I had 1,300 ml of juice so added 1 kg of sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves and then turn up the heat and boil the syrupy mixture until a teaspoonful of it wrinkles when placed onto a cold saucer and pushed with your finger. Remove any scum that rises to the surface. Pour the hot mixture into warm sterilised jars and seal.

You might also like to make crabapple jelly without the sloes or crabapple and rosehip jelly.

Rosehip syrup

rosehip syrup

Rosehips and sugar, day 1

Update to this post (Sept 2016): My experiment did not work! Leaving them whole, as I did, meant that they just sat at the bottom of the sugar.  However, my friend made them at the same time and was much more diligent then I was and snipped off both ends of each hip. The sugar was then able to macerate the hip much more effectively. Hers did turn into a syrup. I will be trying to make it again this year with modifications to my method. 

Original post: This is an experiment. I have made rosehip syrup before (although I failed to blog about it) by using the boiling method, similar to making a jelly. When I made the crabapple and rosehip jelly Margaret wisely suggested that boiling rosehips probably defeats the object of the syrup. Rosehips are incredibly high in vitamin C and so a syrup can be very handy to have in the house during the winter months to stave off any nasty lurgies.

My wonderful friend A suggested this tactic for making the syrup. She had been to visit her Cornish uncle and he had bought out his rosehip syrup for her to try and had explained that he made it by layering the rosehips in sugar. We both wanted to give it a go.

It always makes me smile to think about my friendship with A. We have been friends since we were 17 and at college together. Back then our interests were mostly concerned with having fun and partying. Now when we get together, which is as often as we can manage, we mostly find ourselves strolling around the garden and discussing the finer points of growing vegetables and how best to cook them. How times have changed.

Anyway back to the rosehip syrup. This is not a recipe as such. You just pick as many rosehips as will fit into your jar. You give them a good wash and remove the old flower head. Dry the rosehips well. Now you pour a layer of sugar into the bottom of your jar, then a layer of rosehips, then sugar, then rosehips until the jar is full. Your rosehips should be entirely covered in sugar. As a guide I used about 400g rosehips and 450g of sugar to fill my kilner jar.

This is my jar after a week:

Rosehips and sugar Day 6

Rosehips and sugar Day 6

This is an experiment. I will report back in due course whether it has been successful. However, as you can see from the photo above it looks promising. I did not pierce the hips at all and the maceration has started. I am hopeful that we will have rosehip syrup for our porridge and to sweeten our mint tea in perhaps six weeks time. Watch this space.

UPDATE 13th October 2015

We are now about 16 days into the syrup making process. About 9 days in (a week ago) I noticed that as the sugar was liquefying the rosehips were becoming exposed at the top of the jar, so I added more sugar, enough to fill up the jar again. The photo below is one I took today. You can see that not all the sugar has liquified yet, but it is getting there. The rosehips are starting to wrinkle too.  One of my students at the bread making class last week gave me a great tip –  she keeps her damson gin in the car when it needs regular shaking. What a genius idea. This would work equally as well for your rosehip syrup. A plastic container might be more suited to that than a glass one though.

Rosehip syrup day 16

Rosehip Syrup Day 16

Crabapple and rosehip jelly

rosehip and crabapple jelly

I intended to make rowan berry and crabapple jelly this year. The rowan berries have drooped heavily this year. In fact, on our usual walk I have noticed several new rowan trees. Obviously they aren’t actually new trees I just haven’t noticed them before. Which makes me think that this year the trees must be particularly heavy with berries as I am not usually one to miss a foraging opportunity. Anyway, off I marched with my carrier bags, one for the crabapples, one for rowan berries and one just in case. You never know what you might spot.

It wasn’t until I came to actually pick the rowan berries that I noticed quite how tall each of my newly spotted trees was. Why hadn’t I noticed before that I needed to be several feet higher to get the berries? I managed a handful from a sapling growing on the side of a brook. Time for a rethink. That was when the spare carrier bag came in handy for the rosehips.

I made rosehip syrup last year in an effort to ward off any chesty coughs. So this year, we will be having crabapple and rosehip jelly by the spoonful if the common cold dares to visit. The rosehip is high in vitamin C and during World War II people were paid by the pound for rosehips so that the syrup could be made and given to children.

The apples and rosehips are bubbling as I write this draft and the scent is mesmerisingly good. I am looking forward to this jelly accompanying our winter sunday roasts and perhaps added to some herb teas. I think a spoonful might be a good addition to a sage tea to sooth sore throats.

750g crab apples
300g rosehips
water to cover
sugar, 450g for every 600ml of juice

Method

Wash the crab apples well and cut out any bruises. Chop roughly.

Wash the rosehips and remove the old flower and check for any creatures that might be hiding there. Blitz them in a food processor or chop finely. Bearing in mind that they are famed by schoolchildren everywhere for their qualities as itching powder, so you might want to wear gloves when handling them.

Place the apples and rosehips in a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a simmer and simmer away until the fruit is soft. Put the pulp into a  jelly bag or a clean tea towel (I boil one in a pan two thirds filled with water for about ten minutes to make sure it is clean) and allow the fruit to strain over a large bowl. Don’t squeeze the bag or the jelly will be cloudy. A lot of recipes say that you need to leave it overnight, but the liquid in mine had drained through in a couple of hours, leaving a dry pulp behind.

Place a couple of saucers in the fridge for testing your jelly later. Measure your juice and pour into a large clean pan. Bring to boiling point. Add 450g sugar for every 600ml of juice and stir to dissolve. Boil rapidly once the sugar has dissolved and boil until setting point has been reached. You may have a scum come to the surface. Scoop this out. Setting point should take about ten minutes. But test for setting point after five minutes. To test for setting point take out one of the cold saucers and place a teaspoonful of the jelly onto it. Allow to cool and then push your finger through it. If it wrinkles then it is ready. Pour into hot sterile jars and seal.

I love the colour of this jelly, it’s much paler than the crabapple jelly I made two years ago. It has more of a rose blush about it. It’s well worth a try.

 

Cherry brandy

Cherry brandy on day one

Cherry brandy on day one

Cherry brandy has always been one of my favourite tipples. I remember it being in the drinks cabinet when I was young and enjoying the sweet smell of it in my mum’s glass. It’s probably very 1970’s to admit to such a thing.

I have made damson gin or vodka lots of times thanks to our tree but I didn’t think I would get the chance to make my own cherry brandy. But the delivery of a crate of cherries from our friend made it a very tempting possibility.

It’s very easy, but you do need a large jar with a well-fitting lid, so that you don’t have a disaster when it comes to the shaking of the jar bit.

One of my favourite uses of cherry brandy now is to add a good slug to our regular cup of hot chocolate in the evening. Now there’s a sign of our age and present mentality.

I used a litre of brandy because I had so many cherries to get through, but you can half the quantities for a 50cl bottle. I used light coloured cherries so if you use dark cherries the colour of the resulting brandy will be deeper.

1 kg cherries
1 litre brandy (I used the cheapest bottle on the shelf)
300g sugar

Method

Find a jar that has a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to take the cherries and the liquid.

Prick the cherries several times and place into the jar. If you prick them over the jar you capture most of the juice, although it is a very good idea to wear old clothes and an apron. My formerly white ceiling bears testament to how far cherry juice can travel. Add the sugar and the brandy. Fit the lid, I then sellotape it to make extra sure of a tight fit. Give the jar a good shake. Place the jar somewhere where you will see it daily to remind you to shake every day for the next week. After that shake once a week for the next two months, tasting it occasionally to see if it is cherry enough for you. Once it is, strain back into sterile bottles. You can now drink it or if you can bear it leave it for 12 months to mature.  I plan to use the cherries in a chocolate dessert. It would be a shame to waste them.

Cherry brandy after 3 weeks

Cherry brandy after 3 weeks

Pickled walnuts – a tale NOT a recipe

green walnuts

The reason that this is a tale rather than a recipe is that I am not convinced that I have done this pickling of walnuts thing quite right and I don’t want you, my dear reader, making the same mistakes as I have. I have found too many conflicting recipes to make any sense of the procedure. So, please, feel free to read this and then promptly go off and do your own research and come to your own conclusions. I hope to try again next year and experience might go in my favour.

I have never pickled walnuts before, in fact I don’t think that I have ever eaten a pickled walnut. It has been on my list of things to do, though, for a long time. My generous friend, spoken of previously, has a lovely walnut tree. Walnuts wear the little green jackets that you can see in the photo above and the hard brown shell that we are all so familiar with forms underneath this jacket sometime between June and September, depending on the weather conditions and probably all sorts of other factors. A pickled walnut is the entire green seed pod and not just the nut inside. If you want to pickle your walnuts you need to get them off the tree before the hard shell starts to form. So, sometime towards the end of June or the middle of July.

Please be aware that the juices from a walnut will stain your hands decidedly yellow to dark brown depending on how much contact you have with it. Wear gloves whenever you handle them. I did and I still managed to have yellow hands when I finished pricking them.

The green pod has to be pricked with a fork or skewer several times and soaked in a salt brine for two weeks, changing the brine after the first week (or every three days, depending on whose advice you take). If your fork meets any resistance then discard this walnut as the shell has started to form and you were too late in your picking. It was at this brining  stage that I came across my first problem – a mould developed on the top of the brine. This surprised me as I didn’t think that a salt brine would attract mould. Perhaps my house in midsummer, with the Aga still pumping out at full bore, is just too warm for pickling walnuts. I have, however, ignored the mould. The walnuts submerged in the brine seem to be unaffected by this top layer of mould so I have carried on with the pickling process.  However, whilst I write this post I am considering that my salt brine was just two weak. Now that I have read Mrs Beeton’s wise words, (it didn’t occur to me to do so before brining) her salt brine at 500g salt to each litre of water is at least twice as much and sometimes four times more salt than others recommend.

The walnuts are still green, although a slightly darker green than before, when they come out of the brine. At this point you spread them on trays in a single layer and leave to go black. My walnuts went black very quickly, much quicker than I expected, in fact by the next morning. When they have turned black you pickle them. Now, my problem has been the conflicting and sometimes vague recipes that I have found online for this. One suggested that you use a sweet vinegar (malt vinegar, with the addition of brown sugar in a 2:1 ratio and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, peppercorns) bring it to a simmer and then the walnuts are added and allowed to simmer for 15 minutes. Another suggested that you just pour a spiced pickling vinegar over the walnuts in a jar and allow to marinate. Well, it seems to me that there is quite a difference there. Mrs Beeton, a woman of good sense, and surely someone that can be trusted in all things kitchen, advises that you boil the vinegar and pour it, still hot, over the walnuts in the jar, covering them completely.

I decided that as I like pickled damsons in a sweet vinegar so very much, that I would try the sweetened pickle vinegar, bringing 1 litre of malt vinegar, 500g of dark brown sugar, a piece of cinnamon, four cloves, a few peppercorns and a star anise to the boil. Add the 1 kg of brined and blackened walnuts and leave to cool for 10 minutes before placing into hot sterile jars. Covering completely with the vinegar.

There, you see, I have created a new method and probably more confusion. The walnuts are sitting in jars as I type. I will let you know how they taste in a month’s time (when they will be ready according to Mrs Beeton and not 5 days like some on the internet will tell you). Who knew that pickling walnuts would be such a minefield?

If you have pickled walnuts in the past and would like to pass on your wisdom, I would be forever grateful, that is unless you confuse me further.

Update October 2013 – Just to report we have tried the walnuts now and I can’t say I am impressed or unimpressed. They taste like something pickled but not particularly walnuty. Although we did try them with friends and one of them commented that she thought they were walnuty. Another friend suggested that they are good in a beef stew, so that’s what I shall be trying next for these little pickled things. 

Concentrated mint sauce

To continue with the theme of mint…

Whilst I was picking the mint for the Shropshire Mint Cakes I picked enough to make a jar of concentrated mint sauce to make sure that we have some for our roast lamb this winter. Mary Berry, the source of this recipe, (although I have also found it in one of my Shropshire recipe books), suggests that you make this concentrate in June just before the mint flowers.  I never make it then, as winter seems so very far away and I always think about it but never get round to it.  But actually the mint in my garden flowers in June and then rejuvenates itself and flowers again in September and this year is still growing new shoots even now.

This mint sauce is made with the tender and strongly scented new tips.  I managed to pick 50g, which is a fair amount of mint in a bowl. But as you only need a teaspoon or so each time you make mint sauce, this will last me through the winter roasts until the new mint comes through next spring.  If you have plenty then double up and make a jar for a friend.  It will definitely be appreciated.

To use the concentrate in the winter.  Take a heaped teaspoon of the concentrate and mix in a bowl with a slosh of vinegar and it’s ready to douse your lamb.

50g mint sprigs
100ml vinegar (Mary Berry suggests distilled vinegar but I use white wine vinegar)
75g granulated sugar

Method

Wash a jar and its lid well in soapy water, rinse in clean hot water and place in a low oven for 15 minutes to sterilise.

Place the vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring slowly to the boil (this will allow the sugar to dissolve before boiling point is reached).  Now you can either chop the mint leaves using a knife and then add to the hot vinegar or you can put the leaves in a food processor and add half the vinegar and pulse until finely chopped, then add to the rest of the vinegar (be careful with the hot vinegar).  Pour into the warm sterile jar and seal immediately.